Always Notify 811 Ahead of Any Outdoor Do-It-Yourself Project That Involves Digging

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Submitted by Puget Sound Energy

The sun is peaking out more and our neighbors are starting to prepare for home improvement jobs this spring and summer! Puget Sound Energy wants to remind its neighbors how they can save potentially thousands of dollars in damages with a single call before even starting the project.

In observance of National Safe Digging Month, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) is hoping to share these warnings and advice.

A recent national survey revealed more than half (51 percent) of U.S. Homeowners plan to complete an outdoor do-it yourself project involving digging in the next year. 

About 26.9 million of those same Americans do not plan to notify 811 ahead of their next project, putting themselves and their communities at risk by not contacting 811 before digging. 

Digging without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities can result in serious injury or death, inconvenient service disruptions, and costly fines and repairs. Hitting underground gas, electric, communications, water and sewer lines while digging can have a major impact on communities and businesses. Making a free request before digging online at Washington 811’s website, or by calling 811, will help everyone who digs maintain essential utility service for their communities, while keeping themselves and their neighbors’ safe by reducing the likelihood of accidentally digging into buried utility lines.

Without calling, customers in 2022 saw on average $1,300 to $3,200 in damage. Some of the more serious damages even cost upwards of $7,500.

Locally, in 2022, King, Snohomish and Pierce County residents accounted for 95 percent of homeowner damages to natural gas lines, with Seattle by far being the largest contributor. Throughout Washington, nearly half (46 percent) of the 2,069 reported underground utility damages in 2023 were caused by those who did not call 811.

When asked why homeowners aren’t planning to call 811, the top reasons are related to beliefs around shallow digging and unfamiliarity with the 811 notification process. 

Even small projects like planting a garden or installing a mailbox or post light require homeowners to contact 811 since many utilities are buried just a few inches below ground. 

As part of National Safe Digging Month, PSE encourages everyone to take the following steps when planning a digging project this spring:

  • Always contact 811 a few days before digging, regardless of the depth or familiarity with the property.
  • Plan ahead. Make a free 811 request on Monday or Tuesday for work planned for an upcoming weekend, providing ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked. 
  • Confirm that all lines have been marked.
  • Consider moving the location of your project if it is near utility line markings.
  • If a contractor has been hired, confirm that the contractor has contacted 811. Don’t allow work to begin if the lines aren’t marked.
  • Visit www.811beforeyoudig.com for complete information.
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